VIRTUAL CONGRATULATIONS. CHED Chairperson Popoy De Vera addressed the students of VSU via Zoom on August 17, 2020. Screenshot from the VSU Facebook page.

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman J. Prospero “Popoy” E. De Vera III praised the Visayas State University and its President Edgardo E. Tulin for its flexible learning initiatives in light of the threat of COVID-19, and trailblazing the country’s first online student onboarding training program.

The two-week online onboarding program, which started on August 17, 2020 through Facebook Live, aims to orient students to VSU’s new policies to adapt to the “new normal” in higher education.

The training also aims to prepare students for the flexible learning modality and the learning management systems which will be implemented in the upcoming first semester.

CHED Chair De Vera, who is also the Chairman of the VSU Board of Regents, graced the online program as a guest speaker during the first day of the online program.

In his speech, De Vera mentioned that he was impressed by the “level of preparedness shown by VSU as it continues to fulfill its mission even as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He further commended the university’s good work and leadership since last March in adjusting the learning system just as the pandemic was progressively spreading in the country.

De Vera then cemented the Commission on Higher Education’s stand against an academic freeze despite the backlash he received on social media. He explained that a “one-size-fits-all” academic freeze policy covering all higher educational institutions (HEIs) in the country “does not consider the different conditions in the ground, does not consider the needs of all students, does not provide alternatives on what students will do throughout the freeze, and does not recognize the readiness of HEIs to implement flexible learning.”

He expressed that he acknowledges the challenges, fears, and uncertainties that the universities, students, and parents are currently experiencing. But he assures everyone that through flexible learning, the provision of quality education can still continue despite the pandemic.

“This policy of flexible learning is anchored on the belief that it is the universities who know best what are the conditions on the ground and it is also these same universities that will harness their expertise and innovative experience to develop new and alternative flexible ways of continuous learning,” De Vera explained.

He also shared their work at the Commission in preparation for the new normal such as:

  • Aggressively lobbying and pushing for provisions that will help support the education sector in the new upcoming Bayanihan 2.0 Law, which is currently being deliberated at the Philippine House and Senate.
  • Putting in P3-B to develop state universities and colleges (SUCs) into smart campuses starting this year. This amount will be designed by CHED to help universities improve their flexible learning modalities and alternative learning approaches.
  • Putting in amelioration funds for part-time faculty members who didn’t receive any financial aid during the pandemic, even if they are covered in the “no teach, no pay” policy.
  • Getting funds to give direct subsidies to faculty members and students to cover their connectivity expenses. He believes that if all of these provisions pass the conference committee in the House and Senate, VSU and more than a hundred SUCs across the country will be able to do more in promoting quality education as we brave the new normal.

Chair De Vera then proceeded in encouraging VSU to continue pushing for initiatives that promote accessibility, sustainability, quality, and more importantly, equity.

He moreover assured everyone that the implementation of RA 10931, otherwise known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, will continue this year and no reduction in its funding has been put into place.

In his parting words, Chair De Vera promised CHED’s continued commitment to helping universities and colleges provide accessible and quality education.

“We in the Commission will continue our efforts to help state universities and colleges on the premise that our stakeholders must have continued access to learning at these very trying times,” he said.

“Despite the graveness of this challenge, we believe that as generators of innovation and as agents of change, VSU, just like all other HEIs in the country, are our partners for this very important task. And clearly, VSU is one of the universities nationwide that is rising up to the challenge.